A new exhibition, part of the centennial celebrations of the establishment of Czechoslovakia, presents ten distinctive contemporary Slovak artists of what’s known as the “middle generation” (those born between the events of 1968 and 1989).
The Slovak National Uprising is the third major group exhibition of contemporary art by Prague’s Galerie Arcimboldo.
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Several artists featured in the exhibition have already achieved international renown, including winners of the VUB Foundation Maľba Award as well as the prestigious Oskár Čepan Award – the equivalent of the Czech Jindřich Chalupecký Award.
“Exhibitions of young Slovak artists and projects based on the historical developmental parallels of our two countries take place here regularly, but there hasn’t been a larger show of the active generation, at least in Prague, for quite some time,” says Radek Wohlmuth, exhibition curator.
“The artists here have the greatest influence not only the Slovak scene but also its international image. And it’s with only a bit of exaggeration that we call this exhibition a ‘mini-national uprising’,” he adds.
The exhibition’s opening takes place on August 29 – the anniversary of the 1944 Slovak National Uprising, an armed insurrection organized by Slovak anti-Nazi resistance movement during WWII in the town of Banská Bystrica. Not only does it commemorate the state holiday that disappeared from the Czech calendar after the two countries split in 1991 but, it also refers to a specific event that helped set the stage for major episodes in the country’s history.
“The uprising was one of the few times when Slovaks successfully resisted and moved things in a direction of their own choosing – I greatly appreciate that and for me, it’s an important part of our history,” says Viktor Frešo, one of the more visible inter-disciplinary Slovak contemporary artists.
The backbone of the project is made up of traditional media – paintings and objects – but the exhibition also features some less-common media, such as linocuts and embroidery, through which artist Ivana Šáteková offers her commentary on sometimes problematic parts of local history.
“For a long time, I’ve been searching for a more modern form of Slovak folklore – usually what I find is too biased and idealized, so I wanted to find something that more accurately represents the way things really are,” commented the artist.
The themes that the artists address in their work are not necessarily intertwined with their own backgrounds, but nor do they consciously sidestep national motifs, characteristics, and stereotypes.
“The ‘Slovak-ness’ in my work manifests itself somewhat more subliminally – for example in my focus on figurative painting, which has a long tradition in my region, but not so much in the USA,” says internationally established painter Andrej Dúbravský, winner of the VUB Foundation Maľba Award in 2012.
Alexandra Barth explores timeless everyday life at home. Matúš Lányi transforms religious symbols into consumer goods, while Michal Černušák’s paintings face dystopian visions head on. Erik Šille ironically combines a comics aesthetic and pop culture schematics. Katarína Janečková expounds on her Texas experiences in diaristic fashion. Oskár Čepan Award winner Ján Vasilko, who engages viewers with his industrial paintings, and another holder of the same award, Ján Zelinka, with his cast sculptures of animals using real skins, address the spectrum of environmental issues, ultimately confronting the age-old topic of life and death.
All the artists exhibiting are bold, distinctive individuals – brought together they form an authentic image of contemporary Central European society and its turbulent stories, offering an insight into a robust artistic generation that has something to say – without regard for formal borders.
SNP – Slovak National Uprising is on view from August 30 to October 10, 2018.